Social media companies removing abortion content post-Roe

Social media companies removing abortion content post-Roe

Major social media companies including Facebook, Instagram and TikTok may be failing to respect international human rights standards by removing abortion-related content on their platforms, according to Amnesty International.

A new Amnesty report reveals how, since the 2022 US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade, social media companies have been removing abortion-related content on their platforms without providing sufficient information and transparency regarding their reasons for doing it.

Removing this information can contribute to the increasing challenges in accessing abortion care, it can threaten the right to health and bodily autonomy, and can be particularly harmful to young people, the human rights organisation has warned.

Jane Eklund, Amnesty International USA’s tech and reproductive rights fellow, said: “When tech companies remove abortion-related information, they can intensify barriers to accessing information and lead to discrimination and human rights violations against people who can become pregnant.

“Access to accurate and unbiased information about abortion is an essential part of reproductive healthcare, and tech companies must do better to ensure their users can access that information.

“Everybody has the right to access unbiased and medically accurate information on abortion, and tech companies have a responsibility to respect human rights and should not limit users’ access to such content posted on their platforms.”

TikTok and Meta’s publicly available community guidelines and content moderation policies fail to adequately inform users of how abortion-related content is moderated, Amnesty says.

According to these guidelines, TikTok allows “abortion discussed in a medical or scientific context related to procedures, surgeries, or examinations” (with no reference to other types of abortion-related content), while Meta does not explicitly mention abortion in any of its community standards.

Amnesty requested further information from Meta and TikTok. In response, Meta said it recognises the right to health and allows organic content educating users about medication abortion. It also allows content offering guidance on legal access to pharmaceuticals on its platforms, but prohibits “attempts to buy, sell, trade, donate, gift or ask for pharmaceutical drugs”.

TikTok said its policies do not prohibit or suppress topics such as reproductive health and abortion content, including access to information but it “prohibits content including medical misinformation”.

Ms Eklund said: “The responses from the companies do not line up with what appears to be happening on their platforms.

“Vague responses aren’t enough. Companies need to take transparent steps to ensure that their users are able to access abortion-related information on their platforms, and that members of civil society are given adequate explanation for any content that is removed.”

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